The world must take “radical action” to shift away from fossil fuels, including investing $5.7 trillion annually in solar, wind and other forms of clean power this decade to ensure that global warming doesn’t pass dangerous thresholds, the head of the International Renewable Energy Agency said Tuesday.
Other measures proposed in a 348-page report on the global energy transition include improving energy efficiency, increasing electrification, capturing carbon emissions and expanding the use of hydrogen gas.
Scientists say global emissions need to drop 45% by the end of the decade compared to 1990 levels. But recent data show they are going up, not down, in part due to rising energy demand and the expansion of fossil fuel use.
“The energy transition is far from being on track and anything short of radical action in the coming years will diminish, even eliminate, chances to meet our climate goals,” said Francesco La Camera, the director-general of IRENA.
Countries agreed seven years ago in Paris to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 F), to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences for the planet. With temperatures now more than 1.1 degrees C above the pre-industrial average, a recent report by a U.N. science panel found that billions around the world are already vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
La Camera told an energy conference in Berlin that “not only the 1.5 C, the 2 C goal is really in danger if we don’t act and don’t make a dramatic change in the way we produce and consume energy."
IRENA, which is based in the oil-rich Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi-based IRENA, said investments of $700 billion should be diverted away from the fossil fuel sector each year to avoid creating wells, pipelines and power plants that can’t be used anymore.
This demand was echoed by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called for an end to private sector financing for coal power, which surged to record highs last year.
“Lenders need to recognize that coal and fossil fuels are futile investments that will lead to billions of dollars in stranded assets,” he said.
With countries such as the United States ramping up domestic fossil fuel production amid energy price hikes and fears of supply shortages because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Guterres urged governments not to delay the shift away from fossil fuels.
“The current crisis shows that we must accelerate, not slow, the renewable energy transition,” he said. “This is the only true path to energy security.”
Such calls have met with mixed results.
At a forum in Dubai this week, energy ministers of major oil producers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the secretary general of the OPEC oil cartel, insisted that fossil fuels are part of the energy transition and hundreds of billions of dollars in oil and gas investments are still needed.
While the two Gulf countries have pledged to reduce emissions within their borders to net zero, they tout their barrels of oil as less carbon-intensive than those extracted elsewhere and have no plans to scale back production. OPEC expects more oil will be needed in the coming decades, mainly due to a population boom in Asia.
Even Germany, which seeks to become carbon neutral by 2045 and recently announced a raft of new measures to further boost renewable power, continues to dig coal for energy needs.
Utility company RWE this week won a court case allowing it to bulldoze a farm in the western German village of Luetzerath in preparation for the expansion of a nearby lignite mine.
Aya Batrawy in Dubai contributed to this report.
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